Review: Zombie Vs. Unicorns edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier

I rarely read anthologies. Even rarer still do I review them. To be honest, Zombies Vs. Unicorns exhibited the vast array of talent representative of anthologies that makes me hesitant to buy them in the first place, so I’m not quite sure why I feel inspired to review it as well. Perhaps it is because, amidst the variable levels of quality, I found a couple of stories that I wish had been fleshed out into full-length novels. Maybe I simply feel like establishing my allegience (despite my love for eccentric animals, I am Team Zombie all the way). Whatever the case, I’ve decided to give some brief impressions of my Zombies Vs. Unicorns experience.

The Highest Justice by Garth Nix

It could be a symptom of having been the first story I read way back when I bought the book (and thus having had the most time to languish unremembered in my thoughts), but I don’t recall being particularly enamored of this first story.  2/5

Love Will Tear Us Apart by Alaya Dawn Johnson

I’ve never read any of Johnson’s work before. Alright, truth time, I’d never actually heard of Johnson before purchasing this anthology, but I’ll surely be seeking out more of her work in the future. This story, though short, packed a huge emotional punch, and it delivered on so many fronts: a zombie plague masquerading as an infection, resultant sentient zombie who’s torn between kissing and eating his lover, bonus points for boy/boy romance, and great musical references. Really, this story earned the highest rating possible when it started things off with an Arctic Monkeys-inspired chapter title.  5/5

Purity Test by Naomi Novik

My boyfriend and I had an hour-long drive ahead of us, so I decided to read a story aloud to pass the time. Forty minutes later, my head hurt, and not simply due to sore vocal chords. I could barely manage to finish this story, and I’m still not quite sure what it was hoping to achieve.  1/5

Zombies Vs. Unicorns Anthology

Bougainvillea by Carrie Ryan

Though I have The Forest of Hands and Teeth sitting on my bookshelf, the only piece of Ryan’s writing that I’d read thus far was a short story for the Enthralled Anthology (one of the only stories in that anthology that I wound up liking). Unfortunately, I couldn’t say the same for this one, as I found the nonlinear timeline confusing and the characters rather unsympathetic.  2/5

A Thousand Flowers by Margo Lanagan

This story felt like an Angela Carter tale: slightly confusing, otherworldly, menacing, and wholly uncomfortable. I would never have thought a story about unicorns could feel so wrong, but Lanagan managed to create possibly the most disturbing story of the bunch.  4/5

The Children of the Revolution by Maureen Johnson

I’ve read a few of Johnson’s books, and this story read much the same as her other writings. I found it fun, but without a whole lot of substance or innovation. Still, she managed to keep me interested, which is more than I can say for a lot of the stories in this collection.  3/5

The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn by Diana Peterfreund

I’m a huge fan of Peterfreund’s Secret Society Girl series, but I haven’t read any of her unicorn books yet. That might change, if my reaction to this story is any indication. While I wasn’t particularly enamored of the characters featured in this story, she created a unique world unlike any I’ve read before. I’d like to see how much farther she can take the concept of killer unicorns before it starts to feel contrived.  3/5

Inoculata by Scott Westerfield

Westerfield’s world, while somewhat intriguing, read far too much like the introductory chapter to a series. It didn’t stand on its own two feet, which is a shame, since I felt that he had a whole lot more to say on this subject. Kudos for a subtlely drawn girl/girl relationship. 3/5

Princess Prettypants by Meg Cabot

I’ll admit, The Princess Diaries series is a guilty pleasure. However, if this story is any indication of the tone of Cabot’s other series, I’ll be steering clear. Cabot was asking for ironic humorous chuckles, but I wasn’t feeling any. 2/5

Cold Hands by Cassandra Clare

I could go on for days about the various grudges I hold against Clare. Instead, I will simply say that, as usual, Clare has delivered an inadequately thought out world with a saccharine romance that just barely managed to keep me reading.  2/5

The Third Virgin by Kathleen Duey

While I felt the idea for this one (an addicted unicorn; who knew?) was novel, the writing kept me at a distance. It was too reminiscent of the detached prose of Patricia McKillip, whose writing I simply cannot get into no matter how much others might love her.  Still, I recognize the quality of writing, even if I didn’t relate to it personally.  3/5

Prom Night by Libba Bray

Many other readers raved about this story, but it didn’t draw me in like most of the other zombie stories in this collection.  Unfortunately, I skimmed much of it, and so don’t have a whole lot to say.  1/5

Despite a lot of average writing, Johnson and Lanagan’s stories really knocked it out of the park for me, and so they managed to bump the rating for the whole anthology up a notch. Check this one out if you have the time.

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish that allows us to list our top ten answers to a different question each week.

This week’s theme is: Top Ten Characters I would Switch Places with for 24 Hours

1. Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Obviously, this series is my number one priority in terms of getting to live in it myself (my recent trip to the Wizarding World only strengthened my belief that Hogwarts would be the greatest place to live in the world). I see more of myself in Luna than in any of Rowling’s other characters (though Hermione is a close second), and if I had to stand in someone’s shoes for a day, I’d pick Luna hands-down. She’s smart, quirky, doesn’t care what others think, loves eccentric animals, has a brave sense of fashion, and just so happens to be a fellow Ravenclaw.
2. Kate Daniels from the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews
Ever since I was a kid, I have wanted to be Buffy. She never fails to have a quippy comeback at the ready, and, more to the point, she kicks ass. But since I haven’t read a Buffy-related book since high school, I’ll have to get my vicarious fighting kicks through Kate instead. Having Curran by my side would only sweeten the deal.
3. Clare from The China Garden by Liz Berry
Ever since I first picked this book up in high school, I have longed to visit Ravensmere. If I were to trade places with Clare for the day, you’d be hard-pressed to tear me away from this gloriously quaint-sounding village.
4. Anna from Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Many will probably go with Lola from Lola and the Boy Next Door, but for me, Anna is the girl I’d want to be (and be friends with once my twenty-four hours were up). I’ve never been out of the country, so spending a day in Paris with a great group of friends and one swoony male named Etienne sounds like heaven.
5. Amy from the Secret Society Girl series by Diana Peterfreund
I switched majors from journalism to geography in college, and I was never a part of the Greek life, so the Secret Society Girl series represents an intriguing peek into the college experience that I never had. Granted, my decisions were made intentionally, so I don’t regret never having been in a sorority or other society, but Peterfreund’s series made me wonder what it would be like nonetheless.
6. Penelope from Romancing Mister Bridgerton by Julia Quinn
Whenever I read a historical romance or one of the classics, I can’t help but ponder what life would have been like as a woman living amidst the restrictions imposed by society, class, and corsets. As unpleasant as many of the details seem, though, I’d like to experience it if only for a day. I’m bypassing classic heroines like Lizzie Bennett and my beloved Jane Eyre here and instead going with a more lighthearted take on the general era.
7. Mercy Thompson from the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs
Originally I was going to go with Elena from Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld series. Then I remembered the excruciating pain that Elena experiences during transformation as a werewolf, and I decided that if I were really going to get my fuzzy alternate persona on, I’d be better off as a shapeshifter.
8. Lily from Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn
Dressing in eccentric outfits, baking holiday cookies, browsing The Strand bookstore, and exchanging witty journal entry dares with a mysterious penpal…I’d trade places with Lily in a heartbeat.
9. Tish from Wicked As They Come by Delilah S. Dawson
This is yet another entry chosen solely for the opportunity to visit the wonderful world in which the story takes place. Sang sounds like an absolute trip, and one that I would gladly take.
10. Anyone from one of Sarah Addison Allen’s novels
I spent the better part of ten minutes trying to choose one of Allen’s novels, but I honestly cannot limit myself to only one. As a North Carolina resident, I could pretend that I do actually live amidst the subtle magic that winds itself throughout all of Allen’s narrative threads, but it’s simply not the same. None of the trees in my backyard throw enchanted apples at me, and the wallpaper doesn’t change to reflect my mood. I long to be a part of the quietly magical realm that Allen has created.

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

It’s Monday! What are you reading? is a meme created at Book Journey to catalogue everything read in the past week, what you’re working on now, and what you hope to get to in the coming week.

The Past Week

Among the Nameless Stars by Diana Peterfreund

The Sweetest Dark by Shana Abe

Giving It Up by Amber Lin

Good Bones by Kim Fielding

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

Reading Now

Thieftaker by D.B. Jackson

The Week Ahead

One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies by Sonya Sones

Lothaire by Kresley Cole

Showcase Sunday

Showcase Sunday is a meme created by Vicky at Books, Biscuits, and Tea to share new book acquisitions, whether bought, gifted, received for review, borrowed, or won.

Gifted

  • Among the Nameless Stars by Diana Peterfreund (available for free on her website)

For Review

  • One Moment by Kristina McBride (from NetGalley)
  • Spark by Brigid Kemmerer (from NetGalley)
  • The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke (from NetGalley)
  • Giving It Up by Amber Lin (received from author)

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish that allows us to list our top ten answers to a different question each week.

This week’s theme is: Top Ten Books I’d Recommend As Good Beach Reads

Since I focused on a destination travel-type theme for the Top Ten Books I’d Play Hooky With list a couple of months ago, I decided to interpret this week’s theme in the literal sense. Unfortunately, it turns out that I haven’t actually read that many books set at the beach, but that didn’t stop me from following through on my idea even if I didn’t make it to ten books.

1. Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
Nearly any of Dessen’s books would be great beach reads material, but Along for the Ride has the added bonus of being set in a beach town and also featuring one of my favorite of Dessen’s male leads.

2. Rites of Spring (Break) by Diana Peterfreund
Okay, the bad news is that you will probably have to read the first two books in Peterfreund’s Secret Society Girl series before reading this third installment (set on a private beach island) in order to get the maximum effect of character development. The good news is that the entire series is fantastic, and you’ll likely want to run right out to find the fourth and final book as soon as you finish this one.

3. Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard
Narrator Bria travels to some pretty interesting places during her time in Central America; it goes without saying that Wanderlove features descriptions of numerous beaches and, while the travel conditions don’t always sound ideal, Bria’s story is guaranteed to put a little bit of the wanderlust in you.

4. Endless Summer by Jennifer Echols
An omnibus edition that combines The Boys Next Door with its sequel, Endless Summer is a lighthearted tale of flirting and fun. While the beach in this one is technically a lake, there’s enough wakeboarding and water antics to satisfy.

5. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
This one doesn’t quite fit under the light and fluffy category, but it’s still a perfect beach read. Stiefvater’s mythology is captivating, and her descriptions of the ocean community where the story takes place offer up images of my favorite kind of beach: chilly and a little desolate.

6. The Mediator series by Meg Cabot
While Cabot’s Princess Diaries series remains my favorite of those I’ve read, her Mediator series features a mainly likeable protagonist and a nice slow-burn romance. Since it’s set in California, our former New York-native main character must adapt to the sunny skies and shores of the West Coast all while trying to keep her little secret (she can see dead people) under wraps.

7. The Summer My Life Began by Shannon Greenland
I wasn’t the biggest fan of this book, as I found the characterizations and conflicts a bit too simplistic to be believable. However, it’s got some nice descriptions of a summer spent at a tiny beach resort and so serves as an excellent source of vicarious sand and surf.

Since I haven’t actually read the following books, I didn’t feel comfortable putting them on the main list. However, from what I’ve heard, if you’re craving a story set at the beach (preferably with a bit of romance thrown in), the Summer series by Jenny Han and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series by Ann Brashares are good bets.

And since I feel bad about not quite reaching ten books this week, here are a couple of my favorite beach films thrown in for good measure.

Mamma Mia
So liking Abba is pretty much a prerequisite for watching this film; otherwise I suspect the experience will be a bit akin to a root canal. As it is, Meryl Streep’s and Pierce Brosnan’s attempts at singing are nearly enough to send me running for the hills, but the cinematography of Grecian beaches is to die for (and there’s also Colin Firth; who can resist that?)

Shag
I may be a bit biased toward this film since I actually spent the greater part of my childhood growing up in Myrtle Beach and so can recognize many of the locations they used for filming. (Sadly, the Pavilion amusement park is no longer there.) However, even those who have never been to Myrtle will be able to relate to this story of young people taking a road trip for one last hurrah after graduating high school. Since it’s set in the sixties, it has the added bonus of a soundtrack filled with great beach tunes.

Showcase Sunday

Showcase Sunday is a meme created by Vicky at Books, Biscuits, and Tea to share new book acquisitions, whether bought, gifted, received for review, borrowed, or won.

Bought

  • Missed Connections: Love, Lost & Found by Sophie Blackall
  • Casket of Souls by Lynn Flewelling
  • The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen
  • The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen
  • Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes
  • Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
  • The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, & June by Robin Benway
  • Austenland by Shannon Hale
  • The Lonely Hearts Club by Elizabeth Eulberg
  • Illyria by Elizabeth Hand
  • The Demon’s Covenant (signed) by Sarah Rees Brennan

For Review

  • Good Bones by Kim Fielding (from NetGalley)
  • The Encyclopedia of Me by Karen Rivers (from NetGalley)
  • Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (from NetGalley)
  • The Sweetest Dark by Shana Abé (from NetGalley)
  • The Amber House by Kelly Moore, Tucker Reed, and Larkin Reed (from NetGalley)
  • Asher’s Invention by Coleen Kwan (from NetGalley)
  • His Heart’s Obsession by Alex Beecroft (from NetGalley)
  • Scott Pilgrim Volume 1: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O’Malley (from NetGalley)
  • Beautiful Music for Ugly Children by Kirstin Cronn-Mills (from NetGalley)
  • Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry (from NetGalley)

Won

  • For Darkness Shows the Stars ARC by Diana Peterfreund plus tons of bookmarks (I think some giveaways might be in order) (Thanks to Diana!)

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish that allows us to list our top ten answers to a different question each week.

This week’s theme is: Spring Fever: Top Ten Books I’d Play Hooky With

I’d honestly play hooky with any book that I own, so to narrow down the choices, I decided to go for books that fit the Spring Break travel theme.

1. Secret Society Girl series by Diana Peterfreund

The whole series offers some light entertainment, but the third novel in particular, Rites of Spring (Break), seemed especially fitting.

2. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Anna’s adventures throughout her year studying abroad in France offer the perfect cathartic  getaway.

3. Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley

Seeing a little bit of underground Australian culture makes me want to travel to the continent even more.

4. On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Kerouac’s masterpiece isn’t only the hallmark of a generation; it’s also probably the best novel depicting a road trip to ever be written, no matter how atypical the trip might become.

5. Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy by Frances Mayes

Until I can realize my own dream of renovating a Tuscan villa, reading of Mayes’s adventures will have to suffice.

6. Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

Matson’s tale of two teens connecting on a cross-country road trip is cute and satisfies a craving for aimless travel.

7. Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen

While many of Dessen’s novels feature the beach town of Colby, this one happens to be my favorite.

8. Fever series by Karen Marie Moning

Amidst all the turmoil and action that Mac endures is a trilling depiction of Dublin that makes me want to hop a plane to Ireland.

Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

9. Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

While Hubbard’s depiction of backpacking through Central America didn’t inspire me to plan a similar trip for myself, it’s still fun to watch Bria acclimate to a foreign culture.

10. A Room with a View by E.M. Forster

Forster’s delightful tale features extended stays in both Florence as well as Surrey, making me eager to plan a European tour of my own.